The Nā Pali Coast is a must-see when traveling to the island of Kauai. Over 6,000 acres of protected rugged coastline are unlike any other wilderness areas you are likely to see. Cliffs that stand up to 4,000 feet tower over the crystal blue waters, and each year they are eroded away at an alarming rate by precipitation and large winter swell. This park is completely inaccessible to cars, but it can be accessed via hiking trails (such as the Kalalau Trail from the north, or Honopu Ridge Trail), helicopter tours, or charter boats. Boat tours are by far the easiest and potentially most affordable way to experience the majority of this vast wilderness. Tours are available from either rigid-hull inflatable boats (RHIB crafts), which are designed for the thrill-seeking adventurers, or by larger cruises and catamarans. Where RHIB vessel tours are designed to get close to the cliffs, enter sea caves (weather permitting), and maneuver through relatively rough seas, catamaran tours offer a slower-paced excursion that is usually coupled with a picnic or sunset dinner. Snorkeling, although not as extravagent as other places in the Hawaiian Islands, is made interesting by the frequent sightings of bottlenose dolphins, turtles, sharks, rays, and other marine creatures. Tours are primarily operated from the Kikiaola Small Boat Harbor on the southwestern shore, requiring roughly an hour commute by sea to the beginning of the Miloli'i section of the Nā Pali Coast. From there, tours typically take another two to four hours, stop at some of the most iconic sights the coast has to offer, and perhaps add in a small hike, snorkel trip, or picnic on the beach.
Earlier in the day during summer months are ideal for coastal tours into the Nā Pali Coast State Wilderness Park; the waves are smaller, so the chances of boats being able to operate are better. It is even possible to rent kayaks and paddle against the wind and waves to reach secluded beaches and coves where overnight camping is allowed with a valid permit. During winter months, trade winds shift, causing massive swells and extremely rough seas. Many of the coves have trails leading to the backs of the valleys and toward consistently flowing waterfalls and canyons. Ancient remnants of Hawaiian settlements can still be seen today, such as the terraces and stone walls that were once used in this rugged landscape to cultivate taro. Although there are toilets and shelters at certain beaches along the coast, cell phone service is unreliable, and there is no running water or trash disposal. Please take care to keep the Nā Pali wilderness area clean.